Action Adventure Review

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft – Review

While you may think of iconic characters like Sonic and Mario when it comes to ’90s gaming, more “teen” focused games certainly made their mark too. One of the biggest stars of that time was Playboy cover star Lara Croft, famous for raiding Tombs and becoming the apple of every teenage boy’s eye. Want to revisit that time or take a trip to the past? Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft is now out.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft - Mountain Entrance

A Tale As Old As Time 

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered follows Lara Croft and her tomb-raiding, Indiana Jones-style antics from the first three titles in the game. It covers her first iconic adventure in Peru, through her Great Wall Of China era, and even exploring the halls of Area 51. The series was a lot of things but saying it wasn’t diverse would be an understatement.

The stories of Tomb Raider I-III follow the same pattern in that Lara goes across the globe to uncover some ancient treasure, usually with dangerous properties, and deals with generally shady individuals. These games are a product of their time and as such didn’t hang out around with lengthy cutscenes and deep character development, that came much later in the franchise. The stories of Tomb Raider I-III is more along the lines of an old action/adventure movie with clear-cut bad guys. They deliver hammy lines and tend to have near-limitless amounts of money and luck to get one step ahead all of the time until Lara comes out on top. 

These stories are told through cutscenes usually at the start of the location and then through environmental hints throughout. I couldn’t tell you why Lara manages to discover a colony of Dinosaurs in Peru nor why a T-Rex is stomping around the Great Wall of China, but I can tell you why she’s there and that ancient colonies used to inhabit these aptly named Tombs. The further you get into the package the more story you’ll get. Tomb Raider 3 easily has the most in terms of narrative going on and it’s almost detrimental to the game as it feels a little too convoluted compared to the rather “pure” Tomb Raider 1 story which was pretty much what it said on the tin.

If you’re expecting the level of narrative that you would get in the later trilogy (Tomb Raider, Rise and Shadow) you will be left a little sore. Instead, just take on board that these are much earlier in gaming history and you have a much cheekier version of Lara where everything is exaggerated for entertainment rather than the dark struggle that she currently is associated with.

It is worth noting that Tomb Raider I-III Remastered does open with a disclaimer about some of the content due to some tasteless representation in the games. A point has been made for transparency, but rather than cut or edit the content they left it in.

Great Wall

Hop, Skip, Jump and Shoot

Tomb Raider I-III were 3D action platformers. They were famous for using tank controls, having an insane amount of instant death traps, head-scratching puzzles, and just enough combat to keep you engaged until you’re back screaming at your TV because you have to backtrack halfway across the level to pull a lever you have missed. There is no hand holding and it had a difficulty that didn’t care if you were having a good time or not. Tomb Raider I-III Remastered has not changed this at all for better or worse. Great news for those of us who enjoy this, but perhaps not for some others.

In the first installment of Tomb Raider, you’ll be thrown into exploring one of the titular tombs, but in later games, you’ll explore more urban areas too. The gameplay loop involves exploring the area, finding items such as keys to progress along with first aid kits and other helpful items. You have your guns on hand to defend yourself against the local wildlife or mercenaries who want you dead. You’ll also come across a plethora of puzzles, sometimes requiring items and other times involving switches and jumping sections to keep you on your toes. 

While you’ll be exploring a lot, the main focus in the Tomb Raider games has always been the platforming. You’ll be jumping, diving, climbing, and sliding across stages, usually with the caveat of it being over spikes or giant drops with their arms open for Lara’s sweet death embrace. The platforming requires the utmost care as there is no margin for error here. Even more so the further into the titles you go where Lara will be scaling giant chasms with the floor quickly dissipating. When it all works together it’s pure adrenaline and I love it, but the narrow margin and how brutal the controls can be can cause a feeling of contempt. It’s not a great feeling when you feel you pressed the jump button in time and Lara decides to keep running or doesn’t grab onto the side of the platform, plummeting to her 100th death that session.

It’s a Trap!

Instant death traps are also the flavor of this series: so much so that they could be the main antagonist. While some of them are quite avoidable and signposted, other times they are not. This is especially the case in Tomb Raider III where you’ll end up screaming at your screen as you have fallen through a trap door or set yourself on fire without any prior warning, setting you back to your last save. While Aspyr has done a good amount of work on these titles, they haven’t added checkpoints so you’ll have to get used to manual saves very quickly if you don’t want to start at the beginning of every level, over and over.

There is combat in all three of these Tomb Raider titles but honestly, it feels like an afterthought. Most fights just involve you running around the enemy and stopping to shoot the rather wimpy-feeling weapons until your foe dies. Animals tend to be easier to fight whereas when humans get involved you’re dealing with stuff that shoots back which lends itself to frustration quite quickly.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered shares a lot of its DNA with titles like Prince of Persia, Flashback, and Another World. It’s so easy to die and so obtuse that at times you’ll have no idea what you have to do but when it finally clicks it’s almost euphoric. It wears its difficulty on its chest and this was long before the world described anything as hard as “Soulslike”. This series isn’t for everyone, and even if you have played the later titles it isn’t a guarantee that you will gel with this due to how different the new trilogy feels. These games are unashamedly old school to the point it could be very off-putting for newer games who are used to the stronger quality of life improvements to see them to the credits.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft - Cave

What’s Old is New

So what work did Aspyr do to these iconic titles to make them worth picking up in the 2020s? First off, this is the first time these three titles have been bundled with the PC-exclusive expansion packs on consoles. If, like me, you only ever had these games on the original PlayStation, you now have access to another set of levels for each of the games. New-to-console-player areas and enemies await and it was a genuine surprise to see these when I booted the games up considering you are already getting 3 substantial games for a budget price.

The other major addition to this remaster is the inclusion of “modern controls”. Foregoing the infamous tank controls of the original releases and giving Lara a little more freedom in her steps sounds like a great addition. Unfortunately, it comes with some little quirks which had me switching between Modern and Classic controls quite regularly.

Due to the intricate nature of the platforming that was designed around the tank controls, the multidirectional movement of modern controls means lining up with certain platforms can be a nightmare to downright impossible. The lock-on for combat has issues when facing certain directions and for the life of me, I couldn’t nail jumping backward or sideways when it came to modern controls.

On the back of this, it’s worth pointing out that the infamous “lag” when jumping still exists. In the original Tomb Raider games, Lara can only jump on certain frames of animation which can create an illusion of lag. This exists throughout all of the original Tomb Raider games and while it’s quite easy to adjust to, it is something that will catch newcomers off guard. Again, it plays havoc with the new control system.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft - Looking up at Helicoptor

Shine Bright Like A Diamond

Visually Tomb Raider has always had a distinct look. As an original Playstation title, it was very jagged and that isn’t just in the case of Lara doing a very convincing Madonna impression. On the flip side of this, the team behind the games performed witchcraft in making the locations of the games not only believable but engrossingly atmospheric and easy enough to read as you explore them. Landmarks litter the tombs and you get this genuine feeling of being the first person to step foot in them in hundreds of years. Sadly, this luster doesn’t carry over to the more modern settings like Venice or Area 51 though they still hold a distinct feel to them you could only get in these titles.

Aspyr has done a great job in tidying the classic visuals up to display well on modern TVs and with a buttery smooth 60fps while still maintaining their distinctive PSX charm. If on the other hand, you happen to press the Start button you are then treated to a more “Modern” art style that completely changes the look of the game while still keeping hold of that delicious atmosphere. It’s not the most “next-gen” looking upgrade but features like mist, improved water effects, sky boxes, and other little modern tweaks give it a distinct look while still capturing what made the original stages so endearing to explore. 

The soundtrack for these titles is still just as great as ever. The iconic jingle when finding a secret still hits just right and that Tomb Raider 1 theme song just causes goosebumps from the second it starts.

The ambient sounds as you’re exploring add to the atmosphere. Of course, the short and to-the-point voice lines from Lara still cut through the tension like a hot butter knife as she proclaims “NO!” if you use the wrong item.

Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft - Underwater


Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft is one of the best remastering jobs I have seen. It’s obvious from the second you boot the title up there has been a lot of love and care put into this one.

The modern controls could do with some tweaking and the games themselves could be initially daunting for people who didn’t grow up with Lara but there is a lot to love in this classic adventure package if you’re willing to accept Lara Croft and her quirks. For those who have played the originals to death, there are enough additions and quality-of-life improvements to make this the essential way to now play these titles.


Platforms: Steam (PC), Playstation 4|5, XBox, Nintendo Switch

If you would like to see more action, you may be interested in our review of Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion Remastered.

Many thanks go to Aspyr for a PlayStation 5 review code for Tomb Raider I-III Remastered Starring Lara Croft.

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